Last updated: 07.06.17

The Snap Election: What will a Labour government mean for healthcare?

Tomorrow, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will go head to head as they battle to be prime minister of the UK. But should Labour win, what will the future hold for the healthcare sector?

On June 8th, citizens across the UK will head to their local polling station to cast a vote that will determine who the country’s next prime minister will be. Usually, a General Election occurs every five years, meaning that the UK’s next scheduled election was due to be held in May 2020.

However, following the UK’s shock vote to leave the European Union (EU), the sitting prime minister David Cameron stepped down from his role as leader after campaigning to Remain a part of the Union.

He told the British public that they required “fresh” leadership to take the country in the right direction when leaving the EU. Former home secretary Theresa May stepped forward to lead the UK, despite having also campaigned for the country to Remain in the EU. Because of these unique circumstances, Mrs May was named prime minister without being elected.

With much uncertainty and conflict in parliament surrounding Brexit procedures, last month Mrs May called a snap election, regardless of her many efforts claiming she was against calling an early vote. She argued that her election decision was to give voters a say in who they wanted to lead the country into a post-Brexit Britain.

Healthcare concerns

Oppositions to the Conservative party have argued that the prime minister’s decision to call an election was swayed by polls placing her party 21 points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour. A tactically-timed election could see Mrs May win with a huge majority, securing her more seats in the House of Commons and a Tory government for the next five years.

But with a Tory government comes many concerns regarding the healthcare sector, and specifically the current state of the NHS. On numerous occasions the Labour party has warned about Conservative leadership straining NHS workers as parts of the organisation becomes privatised.

Theresa May has pledged that her party will introduce a number of radical measures to the way the NHS operates, meaning much change for the health service. These measures mean the scrapping of many targets introduced by Labour. This includes policies that have allowed patients to be seen at hospital A&E departments within four hours and receive treatment within 18 weeks of seeing their GP. The Conservatives have claimed that this hampers health professionals’ ability to get on with their jobs.

Under Mrs May, GPs would be in control of patients’ budgets by commissioning health services. In addition to this, the party intends to increase health spending in real terms every year in the new parliament. On the other hand, Labour and the Liberal Democrats back only inflation-linked increases, according to the Guardian.

What would a Labour government mean for the sector?

Essentially, the NHS was founded by a Labour government. Due to the current strain placed on healthcare, the NHS is at the forefront of Mr Corbyn’s policies. The Labour manifesto reads: “Labour will invest in our NHS, to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need for the 21st century. Labour will ensure that NHS patients get the world-class quality of care they need and that staff are able to deliver the standards that patients expect.

“We will guarantee and uphold the standards of service to which patients are legally entitled under the NHS constitution. By guaranteeing access to treatment within 18 weeks, we will take one million people off NHS waiting lists by the end of the next parliament.”

When it comes to staff and other healthcare workers, the Labour party has pledged to invest in the health and care workforce, ensuring that they get the support they need. It has also stated that it will scrap the NHS pay cap and put pay decisions back into the hands of the independent pay review body.

While for many, in theory this sounds effective, a question that has arisen among opposing parties, is how will Labour fund this? Perhaps controversially, Jeremy Corbyn has talked about the need to increase income tax for the highest five per cent of earners, as well as raising tax on private medical insurance. He believes that this way, Labour will be able to commit to over £30 billion in extra funding.